Over the years, I’ve seen many a pitch land in my inbox. Some have hit the nail on the head, others have hit the Trash mailbox. As an editor, you quickly learn what makes a good pitch.
So in a selfless act for the common good of creatives and editors everywhere, I’ve put together a list of pitching tips that, 60 per cent of the time, works every time.
Here’s to getting published.
1. Write an email like a normal person
For whatever reason, some people really struggle with this. There is no hidden ‘art’ to writing pitches that is accessible only through membership and secret passwords. This isn’t the Stonecutters.
Start by introducing yourself, tell us you’d like to contribute, outline your ideas and direct us to examples of your work. Remember, you’re writing to a real person, so act like it. Don’t be all robotic and weird.
2. Don’t make us do the legwork
Please, for everyone’s sake, come at with us ideas. None of this ‘here are my skills, is there anything you’d like me working on?’ business.
We already know people with your skills, and we’re more likely to work with them than you, kind stranger. Instead, give us something specific and what you’ll do to make it happen. Make yourself indispensable to the idea, so we have no choice but to go with you. See how it works?
3. Attach relevant examples of your work
Rather than tell us why you’re good, show us. If we can easily envision your words/images/concept in our pages, we’re much more likely to give your ideas the thumbs up.
If you don’t have relevant work to show us, make it. If you’re really genuine about working for us, you can spend a couple of hours producing something that shows us your skills.
4. Show your personality
Just like we’re real people, we want to know that you are too. One of the best pitch emails I ever received included the line:
“When I’m not writing, my interests are always changing. At the moment I’m spending my spare time memorising the dance moves from Solange’s wedding.”
Aside from making me instantly like her, it showed this girl had a sense of humour and really understood our tone. Safe to say she got the gig.
5. Tell us you love us
Shower us with kisses and make us feel like the only girl in the world. Because if you can convince us that you genuinely love our publication, we’ll want to work with you more.
Why? Well, we’ve found those who read Fashion Journal more quickly adopt our tone, inject a little humour and avoid clichés (all things we love). Those who don’t, well, they make all the mistakes.
Plus, we’d rather work with people who know and love us.
6. Don’t make your pitches too timely
Often when it comes to new contributors, there’s a bit of back and forth with editors to get the tone/language/format/vibe exactly right. This can take a little bit of time.
So if you pitch us an idea today that won’t be relevant tomorrow, chances are we’re not giving it the green light. Try and think long game, ppl.
7. Keep pitches concise
Editors are time poor, so get to the point as quickly as possible – I suggest no more than 150 words. As for format, I find the below works well.
Here are all the details of the piece I’ll write, because of my reason for pitching it. I propose this particular format, covering the below key points:
- Point A
- Point B
- Point C
Benefits to you: Here is how you’ll benefit if you run this piece.
8. Think visually
When it comes to submitting publications, most text will require some form of imagery. Don’t expect us to work it out or be satisfied with stock imagery. You need to suggest a solution.
Many outlets nowadays place as much emphasis on visual language as written, so make sure your suggestion fits with the publication’s aesthetic, as well as formatting restrictions. All will require a minimum size, with many publications restricted by image orientation (all portrait or all landscape).
9. Know the style guide
Every publication has one and you should know the basics. Do as much reading as you can and find out what words should be italicised, how to format dates, how we like to hyperlink, how to capitalise titles, any information we include at the bottom of an article, etc. etc.
10. Use the tone
Every publication has its own unique tone of voice. You wouldn’t write a Buzzfeed article the same way you’d write for the Financial Review. Make sure you have an understanding of the publication’s tone and reflect this in your pitches.
10. Say my name
Honestly, nine times out of 10, our names are in our emails. And if they’re not, do your research. LinkedIn is an obvious start, or try the publication’s contact page.
11. Think end game
Ultimately, all publications want to maximise readership to get those advertising dollas. Know how your pitch will meet this end game. Will it have a high click-through rate? Extend the time spent on page? Maximise SEO? Be highly shared? Receive lots of Facebook comments? Have the answers ready and communicate these to the editor.
It also helps to look at a publication’s Facebook page to see what posts have received high engagement. Look for commonality between these posts. This should (roughly) indicate what content performs well, meaning if you can make your ideas align, you’re on the home stretch.